The Festetics Family

The Festetics Family is one of the most significant ducal families in Hungary. The family, who was of Croatian origin, moved to Hungary in the 17th century. In 1739 ChristopherFestetics (1696-1768) bought the Keszthely estate and its appurtenances, and chose it to be the centre of his estates. He had the palace built, broughta surgeon and craftsmen to the town, and set up a pharmacy and a hospital.

Christopher’s son, Paul Festetics III (1722-1782) was Queen Maria Theresa’s Counsellor to the Court, later Counsellor to the Chancellery.After that, he was elected to the Court Chancellery. The Queen charged him with the drawing up of the decree called Urbarium, and conferred the title of Count on him in 1772. He also became the Queen’s Confidential Advisor and the Vice-President of the Hungarian Chamber. Apart from his political activities, Paul alsofounded the first primary and secondary schools in Keszthely.

George I (1755-1819), Paul’s son, was the most significant member of the family. In 1797 he founded Georgikon, the first agricultural college in Europe. He commissioned the building of the first large sailing vessel on Lake Balaton, the Phoenix Galley. He was a generous patron of culture. He added the library wing to the palace and collected newly published books. He organized the first Helikon Festivities in 1817 with the participation of the greatest poets and writers of his age. He also established a grammar school in Csurgó.

The highest ranking member of the family was Tassilo II (1850-1933), George’s great-grandson. He was considered ’the greatest Hungarian aristocrat’. He was Royal Court Chamberlain, Privy Councilor and Lord Steward. By marrying the English Princess Mary Hamilton, he got in connection with Western European royal families. In 1911 the title of Prince was conferred to Tassilo by the Emperor Franz Joseph.

The last family members to reside in the Festetics Palace were Tassilo II’s son, George III (1882-1941) and his family. His wife, the Polish Countess Maria Haugwitz and their son, George IV (1940- ) left the palace in 1944.